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Actor Wesley Snipes reports to prison to begin sentence

From Michael Martinez, CNN
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Wesley Snipes last stand!
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Wesley Snipes is in a medium-security federal prison to serve a three-year sentence
  • He is convicted of misdemeanors for not filing tax returns for 3 years
  • Snipes, 48, blames his tax advisers for not filing the returns
  • Snipes: "I'm disappointed that the system seems not to be working"

(CNN) -- Actor Wesley Snipes reported to a medium-security Pennsylvania prison Thursday to begin a three-year sentence for failing to file tax returns.

The 48-year-old actor is now incarcerated in McKean Federal Correctional Institution in Lewis Run, officials said.

Snipes' attorney said he is appealing his client's misdemeanor convictions for not filing tax returns in 1999, 2000 and 2001.

Snipes was acquitted of felony charges.

Snipes is nervous, he said, but hopeful that his prayers will be answered.

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"We still have prayers out there. We still believe in miracles. So don't send me up the river yet," Snipes said in an interview on CNN's "Larry King Live" Tuesday night.

The actor conceded he was uneasy about losing his freedom if his appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court fails.

"I think any man would be nervous if his liberty is at stake," Snipes said. "I'm disappointed that the system seems not to be working for me in this situation."

Prosecutors said Snipes earned $40 million since 1999 but had filed no returns and had been involved in a tax resisters group.

Snipes disputed such involvement and said that the failure to file was his advisers' fault.

"This is another thing that has been misreported: It has been framed that I was a conspirator and that I was an architect in a scheme by an organization that has been characterized as tax protesters," Snipes said. "The press hasn't reported that I was a client of people who I trusted (who) had knowledge and expertise in the areas of tax law that would protect my interests."

Snipes is best known for his roles in the "Blade" action films, the comedy film "White Men Can't Jump" and the drama "Jungle Fever."

In February, a jury convicted Snipes on the misdemeanor charges, but he was acquitted of more serious felony charges of tax fraud and conspiracy. Jurors accepted his argument that he was innocently duped by errant tax advisers.

Defense attorneys in court documents suggested that to sentence Snipes harshly would be to disregard the jury's verdict.

But prosecutors, in their sentencing recommendation, said the jurors' decision "has been portrayed in the mainstream media as a 'victory' for Snipes. The troubling implication of such coverage for the millions of average citizens who are aware of this case is that the rich and famous Wesley Snipes has 'gotten away with it.' In the end the criminal conduct of Snipes must not be seen in such a light."

Snipes suggested he was unfairly singled out by prosecutors.

"It does seem to be rather unusual and rather bizarre when you had a prosecutor come into the sentencing and say that this is the biggest tax trial in the history of the IRS," Snipes said. "I think there is a certain amount of selectivity going on here."

Snipes indicated he was disturbed by some public comments that he was receiving "just punishment."

"It's been presented as though I'm worthy of this punishment," Snipes said. "I've been a law-abiding citizen ever since I grew up in the Bronx, New York."

One juror, Frank Tuttle, gave Larry King Live a written statement that three other jurors had made up their mind that Snipes was guilty before the trial began.

The jury's verdict was a compromise between those jurors who thought Snipes was guilty and those who didn't, Tuttle said in the statement.

"That's when a deal was made to find him guilty on the failure to file taxes and not guilty on the federal tax evasion charges," Tuttle said in the statement. "We did not think he would go to jail."

Snipes' attorney, Daniel R. Meachum, said neither he nor Snipes had any involvement in preparing that juror's statement to Larry King Live, saying the show's producers obtained it on their own.

"We on the defense team never suggested that the media reach out to any of the jurors," Meachum said.

Snipes contended that some media accounts of his trial have distorted public perceptions.

"There have been some egregious and very malicious efforts to report the facts of this case," Snipes said. "I was never charged with tax evasion. I've never been a tax protester."

Snipes said he has paid his taxes.

"They claimed that there was a certain number that was owed and that number has been all over that place. The press has escalated it and changed it a number of times. But we think we are fully compliant with what was owed," Snipes said.

CNN's Jessica Thill contributed to this story.

 
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